Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Old Ladies And Puppies Are A Lot Alike

Taking my new puppy out to potty is somewhat similar to taking my Mom to Walmart.

At Walmart, Mom leans against her cart, moving at a speed that makes a Galapagos tortoise look like a NASCAR driver. She must fondle every item, even things that have no bearing whatsoever on our lives.

"Why are we in the Infant's Department, Mom, we don't even know an infant?"

"I wish they'd had such sweet little clothes when you were a baby," she says, fingering pink ruffles.

"I haven't been a baby for 65 years. Can we move along, please?"

We're in electronics, an area of the store that is totally alien to Mom. She has never turned on a computer; she refuses to consider a cell phone.

"What's this?" she asks.

"It's a thumb drive,"  I answer with a sigh.

"What's a thumb drive?"

Oh, geez.

Mom puts a box of lemon Jello in the cart.

"We already have 42 boxes of lemon Jello at home."

"We do?"

"Yes, you buy a box of lemon Jello every time we come to the store but you never fix it."

"I don't like lemon Jello. I thought you liked it."


Two and a half hours later, I'm gratefully shepherding her out of the store.

Now to my dog, Channie, a 9 month old blonde Pekinese whose previous owners obviously never taught her even the most rudimentary concepts of house-breaking. When we go outside, she is totally uninterested in doing her business. I'm shivering in the morning chill as she sniffs every individual blade of grass, stares enthralled at a Robin, tries to eat a pinecone, chases a butterfly. She is fascinated by sticks and stones and the sound of passing motorcycles. She goes on instant alert when faint barking can be heard from the next block over. She wants to play with every passing child and go along to accompany every jogger.

The entire time, she ignores me as I beg, "c'mon, Honey, let's go potty so we can go back in."

When you can finally tell from her attitude that she's thinking along the lines of her mission, she must find exactly the right spot. She has a sense of urgency as she checks over here ("maybe this is it? No, not here") then runs over there ("no, not here either!") She starts to squat, then bounds back up when she realizes she's made an error in judgment and the perfect place is three feet to the right under the red bud tree.

I'm gritting my teeth, trying to summon up my last remaining shreds of patience. I can't growl; I can't yell. I'm supposed to make going outside to go to the bathroom a happy experience, one she'll want to repeat.

Finally, finally, she accomplishes her purpose.

"Good girl," I praise her, "good girl, Channie!"

We go back inside and I sit down with my coffee, knowing I'll be back out in a hour going through the same routine....and the next hour.....and the next. At least, I only have to take Mom to Walmart once a week.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ryan/Romney - Obama/Biden - Two Clear Choices Now

I like the team of Romney/Ryan because it clarifies this campaign. Oh, not completely. There will still be lots of fudging and smudging and explaining and complaining that candidates are being taken out of context and oh, no, Paul Ryan had no intention of actually ending Medicare as we know it and anyway, if you're over 55, everything will stay exactly the same. As if, as parents and grandparents, we aren't concerned about what will happen to the next generations as long as we get ours. And, of course, when Paul Ryan pushed for a Personhood Amendment, but he didn't seriously mean to outlaw the pill and in vitro fertilization and banning every abortion even in cases of rape and incest and the health of the mother. Except, he did.

No the choices in November couldn't be starker and they are highlighted now for all to see. For those of us who want to see......and not all of us do. We prefer to maintain our biased ignorance and fortunately, we each have our very own media who will give us only what we want. If we pick and choose the right t.v. stations, newspapers, radio hosts, Facebook friends and blogs we could go forever without ever hearing a dissenting point of view.

But, in spite of all that, I think the two philosophies of the two presidential tickets will seep through at least enough so that most voters will know who and what they are voting for.

With Obama/Biden, you will get activist government, what the right characterizes as "socialism". It is government that sees its duty as stepping in to help the most vulnerable of us by means of food stamps and healthcare and subsidized housing. Government that needs to play an important role in down times by providing jobs via infrastructure projects. Government whose duty it is to try to help develop technology to protect the environment. This is a government that believes in being the mediator between labor and management (tilting, a little toward the employee' side because of the power inequities).

With Obama/Biden you may get a defense department that picks and chooses groups to assist with weapons and intelligence but mostly likely you won't get another "boots on the ground" war and the one we're still fighting will be ended (although not soon enough to suit some of Obama's supporters). They are, however, capable of making the occasional bold foreign policy move, such as they did in sending the SEALs after bin Laden, despite the risk of pissing Pakistan off.

The O./B. ticket will move cautiously forward on gay rights. It will move cautiously forward on immigration. It will move slightly less cautiously forward on women's rights and minority rights (such as including free contraception in the ACA).

This is an administration characterized by caution. Sometimes that's a good thing. The Affordable Care Act would have fallen by the wayside as all previous healthcare plans have had not Obama been willing to compromise with the Republicans on an individual mandate, as much as his own gung-ho crowd wanted single payer - Medicare for Everyone.

Over all, Obama will satisfy most of his base, even if, in their hearts, they wish he was more of a warrior. The Hillary true believers, such as myself, see him as a high-quality cubic zirconia, if not quite a diamond.

Romney's base probably wishes he was more of a warrior too. He's williwawed around on almost every issue. He was for healthcare before he was against it. He was for Planned Parenthood before he was against it. He was for gay rights before he was against them. The Tea Party set wanted Newt or Rick or Michelle or, well, almost anyone but Mitt. But they'll make the best of it. And perhaps, with Paul Ryan, they'll have someone who pushes Mitt more forcefully in their direction. Or maybe, Mitt will tamp down Ryan's rebel tendencies. He is at the top of the ticket, after all. But all you can know about this pair is their own statement about being for limited government (or what those on the left call "every man for himself").

Many of us on the other side believe in our hearts that Mitt is naturally every bit as cautious, left to his own devices, as Obama. (We wouldn't panic about a Romney presidency if we thought it was the same Romney who was governor of Massachusetts). Without all those Bush foreign policy advisers pushing him, we think he probably wouldn't be as hawkish and blustery about Iran and Israel as he has been. We think, without the Tea Party demanding it, he wouldn't be as militant about abortion and gay marriage as he has been. We think that inwardly he really does believe in healthcare for everyone via the individual mandate.

Maybe some on their side believe that too and, if so, Paul Ryan will give them more confidence in Mitt Romney's conservative bona fides.

The only issue Mitt really seems to be passionate about is business and passing legislation that favors business, especially big business and the big money men, like himself, who most benefit from big business. The rest all seems to be window-dressing. "Oh, yeah, I'll sign a Personhood Amendment if that's what you want." And, "Oh, yeah, I'll promise to be in lock-step with Bibi Netanyahu if that's what you prefer." And "oh, yeah, an anti-gay marriage bill, that's fine with me if you insist."

"You can have all that stuff, just let me at the tax code!"

He probably really believes that what's good for the wealthy, is ultimately good for America. (I'll give him credit for good intentions even though the Republicans won't give my president the same credit). He probably really believes that he and his group know what's best for all of us. After all, they've been fabulously successful making money, so why shouldn't they be equally successful at whipping the country into shape? We're just another corporation that needs our unproductive assets sold, our dead wood employees fired, our loser divisions spun off, our finances subject to some creative accounting and if bankruptcy is in the cards, oh, long as we get out with our monster commissions intact.

Mitt Romney doesn't have a glimmer of what it is like to worry about having enough food in the house to feed his family. Ann Romney doesn't have a clue about what it is like to face a serious illness without access to the world's finest healthcare. The Romney boys don't have a hint of what it is like to have to work for a living....maybe in a mine or on a fishing boat or operating a punch in and day out for 30 or 40 years....until hopefully you can retire with your health intact on social security and medicare and whatever pension or IRA you may have. The Romney daughters-in-law will never be poor single moms and their kids will never wonder how they are going to college.

The Romneys are probably kind people. I expect they are, but there is no way they can relate to the poor and middle class. Judging by his own rigid and radical fiscal stances, I don't see Paul Ryan helping much with that.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

How Does God Choose?

douglas.jpgThe question asked on Facebook was why some people found it off-putting that Gabby Douglas, America's awesome gymnast, gave the credit for her talent to Jesus.

I have to say I do find this penchant of some athletes to offer thanks to God (think also of Tim Tebow) for their success to be somewhat off-putting. It makes me curious about how they think God/Jesus decides these things. There must be thousands of young girls who aspire to be gold medal-winning athletes and even more thousands of boys who dream of playing pro football. What criteria does God use when deciding whom to choose to be the beneficiary of these gifts? Giving thanks to Jesus is cloaked as humility but in reality, there is some arrogance in assuming that of all the beseechers out there God picked you. Why? Did those others not pray hard enough? Did they not measure up in some way that caused Him to pass them by?

I'd honestly rather think that Gabby Douglas' remarkable ability and success was due to her own drive and hard work than that God picks winners and losers in this deliberate way. Or that He simply draws spiritual straws, so to speak.

And it makes you wonder - why is He so concerned with football or gymnastics, which are relatively unimportant events in the cosmic scheme of things, when there are so many awful things going on in this world? Shouldn't He turn his attention to the children who are cold and hungry and abused rather than imbuing one with the skill to make a touchdown and another to vault into the air. Shouldn't He maybe have had a closer eye on Penn State if He's such a sports fan?

Don't get me wrong. I love the Olympics and I loved watching Gabby show her stuff. I cheered her incredible performance and smiled through my tears at her joy. But, still, I'd prefer to believe God didn't have that much to do with it.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

You Can't Vote Without Photo I.D. But You Can Kill A Bunch Of People

Ah, America. Now, we have this new mass murder. Wisconsin hasn't gotten nearly the publicity as Aurora, Colorado. Do we not feel as close to the death and violence of this one? After all, how likely is it that most of us will ever find ourselves in a Sikh temple, unlike a movie theater where any of us might be at any given time. Or maybe it is simply because the dead and wounded were "different" - men in turbans, women in saris - so that the common bond we felt for those in Aurora is missing. Six dead, three wounded, including a police officer who was trying to help the victims.

Do you notice how the perpetrators of shooting sprees most often choose locations where their targets will be sitting ducks - schools, theaters, houses of worship? The better to rack up the numbers before they're stopped.

I went to the National Rifle Association's website to see how they were reporting the incident. I was curious to see how dismissively they treated yet another multiple murder involving firearms. I assumed the organization would see this latest killing spree as one more reason why everyone should be armed - teachers, students, movie goers and priests. I naturally went to the "news and politics" section but low and behold, they ignored it altogether. That area of the site was pretty well devoted entirely to politics, especially the awfulness of Obama and the hysteria over his so-called secret plan to use the United Nations to confiscate America's guns. (I'm sure the National Rifle Association knows how ridiculous this notion is but it has to be a huge fund-raising boon for them.)

Evidently, the NRA didn't even consider the Sikh shootings - ho hum - worthy of being "news". To be fair, I didn't click on every page so perhaps I missed the section devoted to mourning the gunned-down dead.

The perpetrator of this horrendous crime was Wade M Page. The cops shot him to death so I guess all's well that ends well.

Wade M Page was a Neo-Nazi. He played in a racist rock band, End Apathy, which I gather was quite well known in white supremacist circles. Hate rock has a considerable underground following all over the world. Who knew there was such an appetite for poisonous lyrics about killing off everyone who isn't white...and well, I guess whites of a certain stripe are included too if they're on the other side, like the cop who interfered in Mr. Page's mission at the Sikh temple.

Is there any limit to the Second Amendment short of actually using your guns to shoot someone who was innocently attending church or school or a movie? Or do we actually have to wait for them to do it? I suppose if Wade M Page hadn't been killed and had ever gotten out of prison, even the NRA would have agreed with rescinding his right to bear arms....maybe. But what about before? Is there ever a time when speaking and singing and exhorting and threatening is enough? Is being a neo-Nazi enough? Is being a white supremacist enough? Is writing vile blogs enough? Is expressing your hatred of Jews and Blacks and Gays and Muslims (although, Sikhs aren't Muslims but what the heck, they are brown and come from the same general area of the world) enough or do we have to wait until you actually translate your venomous thoughts into action?

The FTA has a watch list of names of potentially dangerous airline passengers. Having your name on that list is enough to get you pulled aside for questioning and checked for weapons. The Southern Poverty Law Center also has a watch list of haters. Wade M Page was on their radar but they had no reason to believe he would go on a killing binge. Other than his being a neo-Nazi who despised certain groups of people and advocated ridding our country of them, of course.

In the U.S., we have the right to free speech and the right to bear arms but neither of those rights is unlimited. The example usually given is that you don't have the right to yell "fire" in a crowded theater. In Aurora, the shooter went one better. He fired into a crowded theater.

Can we predict with certainty who will do such a heinous thing? No, we can't. But if you announce your loathing of and wish to destroy certain groups of people, maybe we should take you at your word. Wade M. Page, as I understand it, bought his guns legally but perhaps he should have been on a watch list of people who have waived their right to bear arms by virtue of fomenting loathing in themselves and others.

The Aurora shooter, James E Holmes, is a slightly different story. He is still rather a mystery man. There appears to be nothing in his background that would point to him as a mass murderer...except possibly the arsenal he had assembled via the internet - the 1,000's of rounds of ammunition, the deadliest of guns, the high capacity magazines (100 rounds in 90 seconds). By all means, let us be sure that we don't allow anyone to vote without photo i.d. but buy a gazillion rounds of ammunition? That's a different story. No red flags there. We have our rights, after all. Evidently, to the N.R.A., the right-wing Republicans and the gutless Democrats, the Second Amendment is far more important than the most elemental right of all, the right to vote.

So, in the end, I guess we'll just sit back and wait for the next murderous occurrence, then shrug and say, "oh, well, it's the American way."

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

NASCAR, Politics and Hate

Ah, NASCAR fans. You gotta' love'em. They supposedly love NASCAR even as they hate everything about it. They despise the sanctioning body and its idiotic rules. They hate the dunderhead calls they make about restarts. They hate supposedly phony debris cautions. They hate most of the tracks NASCAR races on. We just ran at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Fans hate that track and the kind of racing it puts on. But we also hate boring mile-and-a-halfs and some of us hate the racing we see at super speedways like Daytona and Talladega. We hated the two-car tandem but we also hate the changes NASCAR made to try to change it. We hate that all the drivers are now soft, spoiled wimps totally unlike the tough, moon-shine-runnin' good old boys of the past. We hate The Chase and the Top 35 Rule and the Lucky Dog. We hate that there isn't more passing for the lead. Racing has gotten so boring, it's no wonder the stands are practically empty (even when they're not) And we especially hate the networks that broadcast the races because there are way too many commercials and the announcers only focus on the guys up front, unless your guy is up front, and then they don't focus on him enough. We write furiously into the NASCAR websites declaring that we'd rather watch paint dry than watch a NASCAR race the way it is these days. Honestly, I think some NASCAR fans will simply implode if Jimmie Johnson wins another championship because they have worked themselves up to such an irrational state.

I'm not a fan of any other sport. Is this how NFL and NBA and NHL and MLB fans all feel? Do they love to hate like NASCAR fans?

Or is this just what we, as Americans, have become? Are we all haters now? When I read Facebook, I see lots of posters that say, on the one hand, that if you don't love America, then get the hell out. But, on the other hand, the same people who post those in-your-face notices, seem to hate their government, their president, their congresspeople, the Supreme Court and their fellow Americans who don't think in lockstep with them. They post pictures of the First Lady as a chimpanzee. They claim the president is a socialist, a communist, a fascist, a Muslim, the anti-Christ. They claim America is going down the shithouse drain and they seem ready to take up their (beloved) guns and take back their country if THINGS DON'T CHANGE!  Honestly, I think many Americans are simply going to implode if Obama wins the presidency again because they have worked themselves up to such an irrational state.

To be fair, my side isn't totally respectful of Mitt Romney either. Lots of us call him Mittens. We post cartoons about his flip-flops and his tax returns. Most of it is pretty innocuous stuff. I don't think I've ever seen a picture of Ann Romney turned into a chimpanzee. I don't think I've ever seen the allegation that Mitt isn't a "real" American or questioning his religious affiliation. I've never read that Mitt wants to destroy America. Yes, we think he might inadvertently do that with his policies but we don't accuse him of wanting to do it on purpose.

I've always been a passionate political debater and I can get pretty fired up at times but I think I've tried to be fair (and, yes, balanced too). Now I feel myself becoming meaner than I used to be in response to the other side's meanness. I feel myself becoming less compromising because of the other side's unwillingness to compromise. I believe that in the last twenty years, the Democrats have been bringing a political knife to a gun fight and you can only do that so long, until you get killed. Yes, Democrats have used the filibuster as a strategy at times and yes, the Democrats have withheld approval of appointments as a strategy at times but we don't do it every single time on every single issue their president puts forward.  Yes, Democrats have been known to redraw congressional districts in their favor but we haven't tried to change the elemental rules of the game by disenfranchising huge blocks of Republican voters through voter suppression. Yes, some Democrat-led state governments haven't been the greatest but they haven't done away with democracy altogether as they have in Michigan. They haven't foisted unnecessary medical procedures on women (at their own expense) as they have in several states. They haven't tried to do an end run around the Constitution by outlawing a procedure supposedly protected by the Supreme Court or passing a Personhood Amendment that makes a fertilized egg a person, thus allowing themselves to declare that abortion, or even birth control of some types, are essentially murder.

So, I'm in no mood to be accommodating. I want to elect Democrats who are warriors. If that's the way they play it, I want us to be as mean and ugly as them, to defeat them by fair means or foul. I think I want this even though in my heart, I know it will be bad for the country. What is the alternative? Sounds like a lose-lose proposition, doesn't it?